Powering Personalized Learning with Artificial Intelligence


World of education has been seeing numerous changes with the advent of edtech, eLearning, assessment tools, knowledge enhancing ancillaries, online forums and social media, which are collectively changing the way learning is delivered and consumed. Personalized or adaptive learning is seen as a disruptive development, although having been present in some form for a long time in the modern world, personalized learning in the time of artificial intelligence can take an entirely new route, the effect being diverse and the efficacy being amplified by powerful machine learning technologies.

While adaptive learning technology is an aspect of high-caliber learning management systems or LMS like iPC Scholar, its implementation in classrooms and elearning is a part of the overall learning strategy of the concerned institution/ department/ class. The practice may not work well for all subjects, age groups, learning strategies etc, however it extends the application of ‘differentiated instruction’ as an education philosophy for effective teaching, so that all students within a classroom can learn effectively, regardless of differences in prior knowledge.

Audrey Watters, an education writer and independent scholar says in an article that personalized learning depending on how you define it, dates back to Rousseau, or it dates back further still to Alexander the Great’s personal tutor, Aristotle. She further cites a timeline of numerous other instances until modern computers to Gates’ Foundation, which she claims denote the existence of some form of personalized learning.

Sidney Pressey, a psychology professor at Ohio State University from 1921 to 1959 assembled a prototype out of typewriter parts and demo-ed it at the 1924 meeting of the American Psychological Association. Pressey’s machine had a window with a question and four answers. The student pressed the key to their chosen answer. The machine recorded the answer and would advance automatically to the next question, calculating the number of correct responses along the way. Alternately, a lever in the back could change its operation slightly, and the machine would not move on to the next question until the test-taker got it right, tabulating the number of tries on each question.

Jumping back to the present, the results of the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called “the nation’s report card,” are cause for concern. Only 37 percent of American fourth-graders have the reading skills they need — and that number is not improving. Mark Johnson, North Carolina’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, says that “the underpinnings of our education system were designed in the early 20th century with early-20th-century tools to meet the needs of an industrial society, we require teachers to convey standard information from standard textbooks at a standard pace”

The problem with the traditional method of classroom education is that it doesn’t accommodate the fact that every learner has different aptitude and pace of learning. Adaptive learning is a working concept realized with technology which analyses learner’s skill level through advanced machine learning and creates a self learning environment for each student.

Artificial intelligence takes adaptive learning to next level, with the help of AI adaptive learning platforms can build scientifically generated profiles of each learner, big data with its all pervasive power in information helps build a pedagogical profile for students. The goal of achieving a certain learning outcome can be reached through a personalized path. Artificial intelligence assisted adaptive learning platforms can be leagues ahead of Pressey’s machine, students can work at their own pace and advance when they have mastered a concept.

Dr. Liz City is lecturer on education and director of the Doctor of Education Leadership Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, in a video here she talks about how we can change the learning environment in US so that we don’t have the same industrial model schools from 125 years back, and how we can reimagine school as a place that provides amazing learning opportunities that meets the needs of different individuals.

Adaptive learning, enabled by artificial intelligence – ability to predict the next most appropriate output based on information from the past events, ability of total recall – builds a huge system based on big data to know students’ exact weaknesses and helps them to improve. AI-powered learning tools can transform into lifelong companions for individuals to gather knowledge about new subjects, beyond formal learning and measure their knowledge in the form of assessments and shape their learning experience in real time. It helps create individualized education plans, casting off the shackles of its ‘industrial model’ of schooling.